Thursday, August 28, 2008

Games, Games, Games! v2

This post was written in August, but I'm a little late in actually posting it. I left the date the same, not sure where Blogger will put it.

On the second leg of my little vacation, I find myself in Las Vegas. Here, the games I play take on a much different (and costlier) nature.

So, game number one is, of course, blackjack. This is generally the only game I play in the Casinos. I love it, but it's amazing how as I get older, the more little things bother me. It can take a lot of table hopping to find a good dealer and good players. But when you do, it's usually worth it.

I did find a great game that always pays off: Pinball! The Pinball Hall of Fame is located in Vegas. It's an arcade with over 200 pinball machines, all ready to be played. it was fantastic.
The picture above is just one aisle; imagine three more just like it. I was in heaven! I wish I could have spent a lot more time there, but it just wasn't in the cards. I had to abandon a game of Creature from the Black Lagoon with three credits and the last ball still to be played because I ran out of time. Not to mention the pocketful of quarters I still had. This will definitely be a must-stop for any future Vegas visits.

Third game is a Wii. Yes, the object of my drool the past few months happened to fall right into my sister's lap. After taking a surprisingly short amount of time to set it up, I got to see what all the hype was about. Lots of fun! Wii fitness age of 48. I don't like the sound of that!

Okay, this post has a lot less in it than my mind did when I started it. Sadly, it's been over two months, so I don't remember all the clever things I was going to say. Oh well, I'm happy just to be clearing out the clutter of my "Drafts."

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Games, Games, Games!

So this past weekend I joined a bunch of my California friends for Summer Spiele. It's a private get together where we meet at a hotel, reserve one of their meeting rooms, and play board games the whole weekend. Nerdy as it may sound, it's a great deal of fun. It's also perfect for me, because it gives me a chance to catch up with all of my friends from L.A. in one spot, while simultaneously having fun playing games.

Over the course of three days, I played 22 unique games, 13 of which were new to me. Some highlights:

Metropolys: This was the game that I was most curious about, and I was fortunate enough to get to play it twice. It's a bidding/area control game with a very unique mechanic. Players place bidding pieces on a map, and each subsequent bid is put on a new, adjacent location. This forms a little trail, so the winning bid is often quite far from the initial one. Everyone also has private goals for certain colors or combinations of locations. At first, I was bothered by the seemingly distracting artwork, but you get used to it rather quickly, and then you can appreciate the beauty of it better. The game required some thought, but wasn't too heavy. It's definitely risen on my want list.

Tinner's Trail
: I had only just heard about this from my friend Mark's podcast "Boardgames to Go" a few days earlier. Ordinarily, I probably wouldn't have been interested. But since my home group often shies away from the more complex games, I thought I should give it a shot. I really liked it! It simulates mining tin and copper in southern England at the turn of the century. Exciting, no? Actually, it was. Each player has to manage the cost of extracting ore, time the acquisition of new equipment or property, and try to sell at the highest price. There were a lot of different factors that all seemed to integrate very well as a game and with the theme. I would love to try it again, but who knows when I'll get the opportunity.

Schnappchen Jagd: A perfect little trick-taking game for three. Sadly, this one is long out of print, so it will cost me a pretty penny to get a copy. Each player begins the game by picking a number they hope to collect (like 6). They'll get a point each time they take a trick that has a 6 in it. Unfortunately, they'll receive negative points for each card that isn't a 6. However, at the end of each round, players have the option of clearing out their junk pile. This reduces their negative points, but also gives the option of switching to a new number. My description doesn't do it justice, but it was really quite an interesting concept. Sometimes you could score more by taking "trash" than by pursuing your target number. The best part is that the "theme" of the game is junk collecting! Each card value is represented by a cartoonish smiling item of junk like a hairdryer or toaster. A really fun little game that I will try to get my hands on (although I bet the game could be played with other specialty decks).

Monday, August 18, 2008

Party is Over!

Well, it's done! Finally! My 10th Annual 30th Birthday Party went off with hardly a hitch. As every year, I'm disappointed by those who weren't able to make it, but this year I was wonderfully surprised by all of those who were able to come. I had a great time, and from appearances, so did most everyone else.

I'll post photos as I get them; I can't believe I didn't take a single picture. Thanks to everyone who did. Actually, I have a lot of people to thank: My parents, for their help setting up, bringing snacks, and setting up the slideshow on the computer; Karen, for being an excellent co-hostess; everyone who came in costume, too many to name here, I loved all of them; Brad and Trisha for the awesome photo collage; everybody who came and braved the heat to help me celebrate my 30th one last time.

Hopefully, I'll have an update post with some photos later on.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Man on Wire

Several months ago I posted a video of a man (Philippe Petit) who in 1974 tightrope walked between the towers of the World Trade Center. Last night I was able to see a preview screening of Man on Wire, a new documentary about this same event.

The movie used extensive footage from the time, contemporary interviews with the players, and dramatic re-enactments using actors. It was all interwoven very well, and despite "knowing" the outcome, it managed to be filled with tension and suspense. But it also had moments of comedy and great awe.

It was quite incredible. Not only was the act itself amazing, they had a large amount of footage of Petit and crew as they made their preparations. Clearly, they realized at the time what a momentous undertaking they were attempting. The players involved were interesting people with unique perspectives and motivations, making it just as interesting to hear their stories.

It was truly a fantastic tale well told, and I highly recommend it.

Now that my brief review is done, I want to talk about something else in the movie that bothered me.

The spectre of the attacks of 9/11 will forever haunt the World Trade Center. I don't think it is possible for anyone alive at the time to not associate the Twin Towers with that tragedy. And I don't mean that as a bad thing, it just is.

I think the filmmakers for Man on Wire must have been aware of this, and their movie, in a way, is an attempt to glorify the towers, and to restore some of the awe and beauty that they once inspired. No mention is ever made of the attacks, since they have nothing to do with the story they are telling.

But what bothered me were several haunting juxtapositions that hinted at the tragedy without acknowledging it.

The first was the most jarring to me. The main character, Philippe, is talking about the danger of the stunt and the risk of death. He says, "Yes, I knew that I could die. But what better way to die is there? To die while you are pursuing that which you are most passionate about." While he is speaking, the visuals cut from him to a shot of an airliner. It hangs for a few seconds before turning to descend into an Australian airport. To me, that brought images of both the terrorists sacrificing themselves for their cause and the passengers who fought back on United 93.

Throughout the film, there was a very Indiana Jones-like map showing Philippe's travels to and from New York. But at the head of the red line, there was a computer model of an airliner. When it reached its destination, it seemed to nose-dive towards the map.

Lastly, there was a picture of Philippe as he was on the wire. It was a black and white shot taken from below, and above and behind him is another large airplane, seemingly aimed right at one of the towers.

Everything in film is intentional. The filmmakers had to be aware of the eeriness of these images, yet they chose to use them anyway. I found it unsettling. Am I overreacting? Perhaps. They could have kept Philippe's quote in the first example, but used a different cut scene. They didn't need an airplane at the head of the traveling line. They could have cropped the photo or used any number of others without the airplane.

But should they have?

I am not so sensitive that I think one shouldn't mention or allude to the attacks. As I said earlier, one can't help but think of the attacks in association with the towers. What bothered me about it was that they never directly mentioned it.

It wasn't enough that there was an elephant in the room that nobody talked about, but they also kept cracking peanuts and making elephant sounds while not acknowledging the large beast. To me, you can't have it both ways. They should either say something or say nothing. Without acknowledgment, the little hints seemed cheap and tacky.

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